Tag Archives: job references

How To Deal With Bad References That Cannot Be Avoided

Evil man with a banana

The best way to protect yourself from a bad reference

What can you do if you know a reference check is going to kill you?  Here is what happened to a candidate I placed.

He told me, “I only have 3 references from my previous job. That’s all the guys who worked there.  My 2 coworkers will tell you how well I worked.  The owner will only bad mouth me.  He’s mad that I am leaving after 3 years.”

I called, and the owner was a terrible reference.  Since I checked all the references I was able to prepare the hiring company for what I heard.  They wanted to call to verify what I said. I cautioned them to find out what really ticked off the old boss.  It was things like, “He only gave me 6 weeks notice before he left. I may not have given him a raise in 3 years, but he’s essential to the project.  He knows that, and he is leaving.  He’s a quitter. I hate him and would never recommend him to anybody.”

I had them really dig into performance. I gave them specific questions to ask. The boss couldn’t deny the candidate’s accomplishments.  His answers were, “Yes, he did that well, but you don’t understand.  I hate the guy because….”

That candidate was hired. He got a 50% raise at his new job.  No kidding.

The easiest way to deal with a bad reference is not to give out that name.  In some cases the company insists on a specific reference, and you know it will be bad. Tell them in advance what the complaints will be.  Tell them precisely what to ask and how to word it. What does the bad reference have to confirm you did well?

It’s an uphill climb, but you can often overcome a bad reference you can’t avoid. You just have to prepare the ground in advance.

Something To Do Today

Go back over that list of potential references.  Expand it again.  You will never be hurt by having too many good solid references to choose from.

Next I’ll talk about the references that you don’t know are killing your job opportunities.

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Coming up:     References – phantom friends

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9 Job References Most People Overlook

be believable

Be believable with great references

Why do you have to have real job references? To be believable.

When you say it, it’s suspect selling.  When your old boss says it, it’s absolute proof.

When your friend puts your resume on the desk of her boss and says, “Jill is the best salesperson I’ve ever met,” that’s not a reference. She never worked with you. It is only a fantastic introduction.  So get your friend to do that, and also find real references.

The people you choose as references need to know how well you work.  If you provide your pastor, a bowling buddy and your son’s Scoutmaster as references, it will work against you.  People who check references want to know how well you work, not how well you sit in church, drink beer, or drop off hikers.

When you give people you have not worked with as all of your references, you wave a big red flag in front of your candidacy.  The hiring manager will wonder why you have no coworkers you can trust.  Isn’t there someone you worked with in the past who can say something nice about you?

Don’t limit yourself to coworkers and bosses.  Try these references:

  • A secretary or administrative assistant who you constantly worked with
  • Suppliers you dealt with extensively, more than just order takers
  • Contractors you worked with, supervised, or reported to
  • People you sold to
  • Salespeople you negotiated with
  • The person who always came to you with questions
  • A business rival you constantly competed with and sometimes beat
  • Someone from where you do a lot of real work as a volunteer – hours weekly
  • A teacher who supervised a big project (only if you are fresh out of school)

Your current job and previous jobs are your biggest assets in a job search.  Use your jobs to prove how well you will work for your new company.  The bad news is if you screwed up on two jobs in a row, you are going to have a hard time getting hired. The good news is if you impressed three people at your old jobs, those are the only three you have to give as references.

Something To Do Today

In your job journal list the people you impressed in the last 5 years.  Use the suggestions above to add people beyond your coworkers, bosses and subordinates.

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Coming up:Bad references

You can’t rollerskate in a buffalo herd

Resume magic

Imperfect and highly paid

The most common interview questions